Skinny shaming is a thing too

Thin people too are at the receiving end of derogatory remarks about their appearance.
Last Updated 04 December 2018, 14:34 IST

While we are all now familiar with the term ‘body shaming’, there are several subsets to it like ‘fat shaming’, ‘skinny shaming’ and ‘thin privilege’ that seem to be slowly making their way to the collective consciousness of people through social media.

‘Skinny shaming’ is the practice of criticising people for their thin appearance. Recently, celebrity model Bella Hadid faced this situation after a picture she shared online, from her fittings for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, received a lot of flak from netizens.

Comments ranged from people calling her “skin and bone”, “unhealthy”, “malnourished” and criticising her for “setting unrealistic standards”.

While Hadid didn’t directly address negative comments, she later edited her caption to include this — “All body types are different and react differently to a great workout routine and a healthy diet.”

Comments directed at thin people can range from sarcastic to downright mean, says Deepika Jayaram, a media professional.

“I have been skinny since my childhood and all my relatives and friends would make fun of me. I was made to feel inadequate. When I was younger, I avoided family functions because I knew what kind of comments would come my way — ‘Aren’t you eating anything’, ‘You will fly away one day’ and so on. I used to laugh it off earlier but it stopped being funny quickly,” she says.

“I would get teased and bullied in school and even college by classmates and friends alike, who said I “was flat like a carrom board”. My parents and relatives would say - who will marry you if you look like this?” she adds, pointing out that she also started blaming her single status on her appearance.

Athira Venugopalan, a student, talks about how strangers and acquaintances alike would ridicule her about her weight. “I have always heard remarks like ‘Don’t you eat?’, ‘Do you choose clothes from the kids’ section?’, ‘You look like a school kid’ and so on. It made me feel inferior and sad,” she says.

Actor Abhilash Thapliyal, famous for his ‘The Muffler Man’ videos on YouTube, says that his neighbours’ remarks on his body worried his parents. “I have always been a thin person. They didn’t have a problem but once the remarks increased, my mother tried different remedies and methods, sourced from different places we stayed at, to make me gain weight.”

“Though I had heard negative remarks about my skinny appearance from childhood, college was when it started to get nasty. I used to have people asking me if I masturbate a lot since I was so thin. It may seem funny now but at that time, it was a traumatic experience for me.”

How did they react?

As Deepika’s confidence levels plummeted, she resorted to stuffing herself to gain weight. “That didn’t work for me. I was also asked to stop activities like running and dancing, which I enjoyed, as people said I will become invisible if I did any physical activity.”

Abhilash says he joined a gym and started taking weight-gain supplements. “Thankfully they didn’t work on me because I now realise that eating those on a regular basis would have affected my internal systems badly.”

Years down the line...

Abhilash adds that though he claims to have accepted his physique, somewhere it is always there at the back of his head. “For example, I still always wear layered clothes so that I look bulky. Since I am an actor (he recently made his debut in ‘Dil Juunglee’, starring Tapsee Pannu and Saqib Salim), I have started getting remarks like ‘You got work in Bollywood with such a body?”

Deepika decided she had enough after a point. “I started wearing clothes that I liked and stopped worrying about having enough curves to fill those out. People still pass remarks but I either ignore them or retort in a sarcastic or witty manner. I am like this and they have to accept me.”

All this is body shaming too

It is not just passing negative remarks on a person’s appearance that construes body shaming, though it is the most overt and nastiest form of that. Complimenting someone for being “brave” enough to wear a piece of clothing or saying that they were looking great because they had lost weight is also a veiled form of body shaming, since it amounts to saying that they don’t look good if they are fat.

- “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful” — don’t say things like this please. You can be both!

- “Real women have curves” — It seems a positive comment since it says that curves are desirable. But take note: all people who identify as women are real women, no matter what their stats are.

- Unsolicited diet or exercise advice — we are not even trying to explain what’s wrong here.

Thin privilege

A term called ‘thin privilege’ was coined by lingerie blogger Cora Harrington. She explains that being able to indulge in normal activities like buying clothes in your size from stores and sitting comfortably in train and plane seats means you have ‘thin privilege’.

In a detailed Twitter thread, Cora said, “You don’t have to ‘feel thin’ to have thin privilege”. It just means you don’t find it difficult to do everyday things because of your size. In a series of tweets, she explains that thin privilege is not needing to fend off harassment and judgement for your size or for what you’re eating.

South vs North Indian movie industries

Bollywood’s fixation with weight loss is well known (remember the time they actually gave an award to Parineeti Chopra for losing weight?). Though actors like Vidya Balan, Ileana D’Cruz and Shikha Talsania have been vocal about body positivity, they are a minuscule lot.

Most of the actors there, irrespective of gender, continue to be in a hurry to lose weight, lose weight post pregnancy and post their gym pictures while they are at it.

The South Indian industries continue to fare better in that regard. Though the new crop of actors is far from fat, they still look closer to human beings than photoshop advertisements.

(Published 04 December 2018, 13:17 IST)

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